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  • Hank Daniszewski

Politicians push for affordable housing in Old East towers

Two highrise towers looming for Old East Village may include affordable housing as part of the development, city politicians heard Monday.

Paramount Inc. is in talks with city hall and the London Housing Development Corp. on making some units in its proposed 24-storey towers, with 480 units, more affordable — and politicians voted at the meeting to include affordable housing as part of the plan.

“There is a real strong desire to have affordable housing and this is a good opportunity to make some headway on that front,” Coun. Jesse Helmer said at the planning committee meeting.

“Now is the time to give direction to staff and tell them what we want to see.”

The idea of including affordable housing stems from public meetings held in March 2017 and again this year, where residents pushed the idea. The builder agreed to discuss it after those meetings, and has been in talks with the city, said city hall planning boss John Fleming.

But city politicians have also told planning staff they want to see more affordable housing in highrise developments, considering something called “inclusionary zoning” — mandating an affordable housing component into all new housing developments.

These units would be “indiscernible,” blending in with market units “to guard against stigma,” Fleming added.

“It would allow them to integrate into a complete neighbourhood.”

The housing body cheered the direction from council’s planning committee, saying there is a need in the city for more affordable units.

There has not been a discussion of how many units may be included.

The development would also feature 20,000 square feet of commercial space, on a podium-style base for each tower. It would also boast 332 parking spaces, one level below ground and two above.

“It will be a significant development in the Old East Village area, it has the potential to be a catalyst for the area,’ said Harry Froussios, planner with Zelinka Priamo. “It will provide a desired, preferred style of housing.”

Jacqueline Thompson, director of LifeSpin, a poverty support agency in London, also pushed the committee to include affordable housing. In addition the agency, which gets no public money, receives $27,000 in revenue from solar panels on its roof, and the towers will cast a shadow that will cut its revenue about 13 per cent, she said.

“I urge this committee to make inclusion of affordable housing a requirement. There is no reason a number of affordable units cannot be included in the 480 (units),” she said.

As for the height of the towers, Medallion has built three towers nearby and they are 24-storeys tall, the committee heard.

Afford­able housing is where governments give builders construction grants with an agreement that tenants will be charged rents below ­market rates.


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